Thursday, January 3, 2008

Beowulf--The Movie

I enjoyed 300 and even Troy. I was looking forward to seeing Beowulf, to enjoy another epic story, filled with outrageous heroes and fantastic monsters. I read an excerpt of the poem when I was in high school, which was a long time ago. I read The Song of Roland about the same time and the two were muddled in my mind. This summer I bought Seamus Heaney's translation this summer and was looking forward to reading it.

So I was really looking forward to seeing this movie, especially when DD#2 said that she could get extra credit in English for watching Beowulf and then comparing it with The Odyssey, which she is reading.

I was really disappointed.

First off, I found the computer animated human characters extremely off-putting. We saw the movie on a regular screen, not 3-D, so I don't know if that makes any difference. But the synchronization of their mouths with the dialogue was off and their movements were strange--not quite smooth.

And then there are the accents. Here is a story about Danes and Geats and Thanes and everyone speaks with a well-modulated British accent, except for the serving girls. They speak with a brogue. Robin Wright Penn is the voice, and the body model, for the queen. Her accent isn't bad, but weren't there any British actresses available? Angelina Jolie looks great with an airbrushed body in gold leaf, but I'm not sure what her accent was supposed to be. In fact, according to the credits, there was another actress involved. I guess they were going for the "dragon lady" effect--Angelina's character was rather reptilian.

But the tragedy of this movie is that it didn't engage me. I didn't care about Beowulf or Hrothgar or the queen. I didn't care about Grendel or his mother. The effects were amazing, especially the dragon. But emotionally, the movie had no impact, no resonance. While it was clear that Beowulf was attracted to Hrothgar's young queen and she to him, there was little to explain what happened between the time of Beowulf's encounter with Grendel's mother and his encounter with the dragon. They profess their love for each other--but what happened?

Update: DS#1 is home for Thanksgiving. We were talking about this movie, which he thought was great. Turns out, he saw it in 3-D and it's apparently "awesome." Then, too, he was probably watching for the effects while I was watching for the story. That might also be the difference between seeing this movie in 2-D versus 3-D. However, I'm not spending the money to find out.

Also, Cliff Notes Online had an article about the themes in Beowulf, the original poem. Robert Zemekis (and screenwriters Neil Gaiman and Robert Avary) should have checked the site out.

On the March Hare scale: 2 out of 5 Golden Tickets

crossposted on The Mad Tea Party

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

That fim was terrible.

They took an epic poem that was already custom made for the big screen, and proceeded to destroy it.

They should really leave the epic stuff to movie makers who don't feel the need to smash everything with the postmodern deconstructionist hammer.

I have to give them credit, though. It takes a LOT of work and dedication to make an epic story like this TOTALLY suck.

Mike said...

My review of the movie. I'm not as kind to it as you are.

http://www.geocities.com/meunke/BeowulfArticle.htm